Marisol Hernandez is the editor in chief of CNY Latino Media, a media consortium that publishes the area’s only Hispanic-oriented newspaper and provides translation services. Hernandez is a consultant for the WISE Women’s Business Center, serving as a coach and leader of the EXITO! entrepreneurial workshops offered in Spanish and English. She also sits on the boards of Rochester-based Latinas Unidas and Amigas Conectadas. She lives in Tully with her life partner and has two stepdaughters and a new grandson.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I was living downtown (Syracuse) in 1999, doing the last semester of my bachelor’s degree and I wanted to reconnect with my Latino heritage and the community. I found that a lot of Latinos [were] in Rochester and Syracuse. I was looking to serve my community and use my bilingual skills. I got a job at the Spanish Action League.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
I kind of fell in love with Syracuse. When I first got here, getting to know the Latino leaders and the type of work I was doing got me into many programs that were servicing the community...and [I] got to learn how to advance the community. In doing that, it felt like home. It felt like I belonged.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
Theater, attending plays, seeing outdoor events, experiencing the diverse ethnic food and places here in this area, that kind of got me hooked. I love seeing all four seasons. I could experience metropolitan life if I go to Syracuse downtown at night or I could go to the Adirondacks and enjoy being by the lake and very secluded places. It’s easy to get anywhere; you travel for two hours north, south, east or west and you can see amazing places and experience those.
What do you like most about living here?
I think it’s the festivals like Taste of Syracuse. The NYS Fair and all that it has to offer. Dining out and trying new places in the area. To top it off, the cost of living is great.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
It’s that sense that you could be in a rural place for a while and then the same day be in a very metropolitan, hip area. It also depends on what’s going on in the area. If it’s summertime, outdoors is alive, and you can go and have a nice afternoon or after-hours drink with a couple friends in downtown Syracuse and go [to] different restaurants in different areas. You could take a walk in Onondaga Lake Park or bicycle and go all around.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
I would probably go to Geneva Lake, walk around the lake and have a great lunch at El Morro, a restaurant with best typical Puerto Rican food. Maybe go wine tasting in Geneva. Or end up in Ithaca and see the gorge and waterfalls. On the way back home, stop in Cortland, and enjoy the Mexican restaurant (Garcias) for dinner, then end up back home. If I still have time, I could [go] to Labrador or Tinker Falls and see more waterfalls. I love the outdoors. If I find that there’s a new restaurant opening around here, I would include that in my day.
Go-to place to eat?
I do love Las Delicias restaurant, they make the best mofongos, pork or fish depending on the day of the week. We love Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, too. It’s not just Latino food, but we’ve tried many of the ethnic restaurants in the area as well.
First place you take out-of-town friends or family?
I have taken family to go ice skating in downtown Syracuse or go check Labrador or Song Mountain and see people skiing. I don’t ski but we love to see that if it’s winter. Or go for a hayride with horses. If it’s summertime, I’ve taken people to the NYS Fair and shown them what the Fair has to offer.
I think it’s summer. It’s because you can be outdoors and not have to worry about a lot of clothing and coldness and you can drive anywhere. In the summer, we go to Sylvan Beach and we go bike riding. Or just spend a Sunday afternoon [there], go for brunch in one of the small restaurants in the area and take our dog with us and go for a walk. [We] go hiking at different places around here. Skaneateles has a lot of different, very secluded hiking areas. It’s pretty cool.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
Going bicycling and hiking. I love going to the Jazz Fest, outdoor music festivals. We sponsor a lot of the Latino festivals [throughout Upstate]. If there’s a Latino festival or Latino event, we like to attend and participate. If we have the chance to host a domino tournament, we do that as well.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
I mentioned El Morro Restaurant, which is a Latino restaurant in Geneva. But there’s a very small restaurant called Hope Café in Liverpool and they have the most amazing Peruvian food. That one’s great.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
I think, and it’s probably because I was in the beginning of my relationship with Hugo, when I first started being part of what he did when he started the paper. We were part of a community Dia de las Aves, the Day of the Birds, event at the zoo. He had brought his girls with [him]. Rachel was 7 and Alex was 12, and we had the most amazing time together and it felt like [we were] a family.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
Diverse, affordable, multi-seasonal, low crime rate. People here are very good to each other, too. When people are in trouble here, everyone contributes and helps. I like that.
What do you think we take for granted here?
Central New York has a lot of resources; I don’t think people take advantage of that. Not only resources in terms of places to see and enjoy, but also help for small business owners, help for people with you name it. With health, even. I’m a diabetic and I got help from the YMCA figuring out how to do better with my health, my diet and my exercising. There are a lot of resources here and people don’t realize how good we have it.
Best way to get to know the area better?
Just exploring, getting out there. Many people are afraid to get out of their comfort zone and seek things out. Every Sunday we get the new Post-Standard, and we see everything that’s going on in the city. If you Google Central New York or CenterState CEO or go to their website, there’s tons of stuff to do. Look it up, get out of your comfort zone and go and see something.
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
I’m always telling my friends, because they complain that there’s nothing to do here. I’ve heard that a lot and I’m like, are you kidding me? I have gone to football games at the Dome and done Latino tailgate parties at the Dome before the football game. I have gone to the Mets (formerly the Chiefs) baseball games and [enjoyed] Thursday night $1 hotdogs and beers and a tailgate party before the game. I’ve gone to Syracuse Stage and enjoyed the Redhouse and seen plays, or I’ve gone to Syracuse University and enjoyed concerts, or dinners, and galas and events. You name it, there’s tons of stuff to do. When people tell me there’s nothing to do in Syracuse, I get upset.
What do you think people outside of Central New York should know about living here?
The cost of living is really good here. There’s tons of jobs and opportunities. There’s very low crime. [There are a lot of] business development opportunities here. There’s many areas where people who either want to start their business or grow their business can go in and get help. If you need to find a job, there are tons of places to find good employment. I think people here are very welcoming to newcomers. I remember when I first moved to Syracuse, not knowing anything or anybody, people were friendly and eager to tell me or show me all of the stuff I’ve learned to love here.
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